Senior UN official appeals for urgent funds as crisis deepens in Horn of Africa

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

19 September 2008 – The United Nations humanitarian relief chief made a passionate plea today for more funding to avoid a famine in the Horn of Africa on the scale witnessed in the 1980s.

The Horn of Africa is facing a humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17 million people, including 3 million children, in urgent need of food and other critical assistance over the coming months, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told the press in New York.

“The overall food security situation in the Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, parts of northern Kenya and north-eastern Uganda – is getting even more serious than it was before because of the combined effects of drought, rising food prices and in some places conflict,” said Mr. Holmes.

“This number could rise if the drought deepens and the hunger season continues,” added Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Coordinator of the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis.

Mr. Holmes urged the donors and Member States to finance the $716 million shortfall in the emergency funding needed to provide the food and pay for the emergency relief effort, including medium-term agricultural recovery, for the rest of this year.

“What we need is more funds and more funds now. Otherwise the situation will become even more catastrophic than it is today,” Mr. Holmes urged. “We do need extra resources very quickly indeed if we are to avoid going back to famine situations [similar to the 1980s and 1990s].

“In particular in the Somali region of Ethiopia where the rains have failed for the third successive year. People there talk to me in desperation about the worst situation since 1928 when the whole of their livestock died.”


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